If escapism is a guilty pleasure, fantasy as a genre provides ample opportunity for a reader to indulge. There is no denying the surrealism of fantasy with its heroic protagonists — a world where gods and humans collide in a cataclysmic tale of the Nam Empire with its characters and plot twists — fantasy fans in India have a new book to pour over. Faith of the Nine by Sachin Dev has the earthy appeal of a traditional fantasy novel. The book bears a complex plot that is accompanied by a simplicity of language.
Excerpts from an interview
What was the inspiration for the book?
I read only fantasy as a genre. One of the blogs I follow came up with an anthology of fantasy-themed short stories. I wrote a short story for this anthology. The story that I wrote got a lot of feedback that, ‘we need to identify more with the world and the characters’. Hence I sat down and started fleshing out a story of the world behind that. That short story is now the prequel to the trilogy.
Would you call the book a mythological fiction or a fantasy fiction novel?
If I were to strictly term it I’d like to call it a high-fantasy or an epic-fantasy. But the world is actually inspired by a pre-Vedic India because pretty much the mythology, culture and religion in the book follows what happened in India a long time back. India has a vast reservoir of mythology. When you read through the book you’ll identify certain elements which are picked from actual stories we’ve heard in our childhood like the concept of a rakshasa or a yakshi or a goddess that patronises art and music. At the heart of the book the story is about a clash of faith; a forgotten faith which is coming back to power and the current prevailing faith. It is inspired by Hindu mythology but I have created a world from scratch.
Fantasy fiction in India has a very large following and the books written around the world and in India have set a standard that’s hard to beat. Did you feel the pressure of living up to those?
Frankly no, I don’t want to be compared at this point because pure second-world fantasy written by Indian authors are few. If I could cite examples they would be Samit Basu with the Gameworld Trilogy after which the gate broke with Amish writing TheShiva Trilogy . You have 333 million gods and counting in India, so you pretty much have everyone writing about one single god, or an advisor of a god, or a demigod. That will continue to happen. The way I’ve tried to write is, my gods are imaginary but you can relate to them as elements of nature, stuff that you heard about as a kid. I don’t want to compare myself to the plethora of mythological fantasy writers but it is definitely in the same genre. Comparisons can’t be helped.
What kind of research went into the book?
I read mythological stories from around the world. Some reviewers compared the yakshi concept in the book to the Greek mythology’s succubus. A lot of the ideas in the book are inspired by some of my favourite authors I read these days.
When did you begin writing?
The love for writing has always been there. I am a voracious reader who grew up on Enid Blyton and The Hardy Boys. Somewhere along the way I felt that I needed to put my own spin to the stories. When I was younger, I started writing my own series of mystery stories; sort of like fan fiction. I called my characters The famous trio based on a combination of The Hardy Boys and The Famous Five. That was in class six or seven. I wrote three or four small books, which were printed, bound and kept in the school library — I am pretty proud of that.
You talked about Samit Basu and Amish. What do you think about fantasy or mythological fiction in India?
Indians have woken up to the genre. It has picked up because we always knew the stories but it had not been categorised as a separate genre till today. The Indian audience has always been hooked to sword-and-sorcery sagas. It became mainstream after Amish’s books. We have a lot of great works in the genre, like the Mahabharata and Ramayana . They are subject to so many interpretations and the whole wave is still continuing with different, countless stories based on just the two of them. Also, the Game of Thrones television series has popularised the genre in the country. This is the right time to be writing mythological fiction.